The Increasing Popularity of Yoga
With an increasing trend in western culture toward the use of alternative therapies, yoga is emerging as a primary means for achievement of both physiological and psychological wellness. Traditional yoga utilizes a combination of both physical and spiritual methods for faciliatation of self-improvement. The origin of yoga has not been clearly identified, however archeaological evidence suggests its existence as early as circa 1300BC (Starre 1989). Starre suggests that there are four main branches of traditional yoga practice, one being Raja yoga. Raja yoga addresses mental and physical control by using techniques to perfect the body, calm the mind, and increase spiritual awareness. Of particular interest to health care professionals is Hatha yoga, a subdivision of Raja yoga. While Raja yoga is considered a more "meditative" form, Hatha yoga involves the practice of specific body postures and deep breathing exercises. These characteristics provide for a yogic practice that is more physical in nature. Typically, in today's popular practice, it is the external form, or technique (Hatha yoga) that is empasized, while the internal form, or attitude, intention and mental aspect (Raja yoga) is overlooked (Desai 1985). However, a fairly new approach to yoga, called Kripalu, combines the techniques of both Raja and Hatha yoga, and is emerging as the popular yogic practice.
Yogi Amrit Desai created Kripalu yoga in 1970. Previously, Desai had spent nearly twenty years mastering the art of traditional yoga, and is widely regarded as a yogic authority. As stated, Kripalu yoga is a synthesis of both Raja and Hatha yoga techniques. Desai has termed Kripalu yoga, "meditation in motion," a practice in which both movement and meditation happen simultaneously and harmoniously (1985). He attributes the creation of Kripalu yoga to the awakening of prana, or intelligent life force within us, and proposes that it restores the cooperative working relationship between the body and mind (Desai).
Emphasized with the practice of Kripalu yoga is the importance of pranayama (breath and life force control) and concentration during asanas (body postures). Desai (1985) describes Kripalu yoga as a holistic, integrated five-stage approach in which body and mind play complementary roles. "Since science has been rediscovering that our body and mind are not two separate entities, but one, holistic, interdependent body-mind, yoga practice cannot afford to be either exclusively mental or physical" (Desai, preface). In the art of Kripalu yoga, mastering the asanas is a necessary step, providing an external vehicle of the more significant inner stillness, harmony, and peace. Therefore, the purpose is equally spiritual, as it is physical. Desai explains the external form of the posture is seen as secondary to its primary purpose as a medium for an ecstatic, meditative experience.
Kripalu yoga is composed of sequences of...